A backstory of the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympic games

BodegaI swear, for every WordPress post that I make, like yesterday’s, the Facebook responses and the “Comments” sections of the posts are outnumbered four-to-one by emails to me, which the reader doesn’t see and which defeats the fun of the post! I’m therefore writing another post about the Blyth Arena post of a few days ago, (and, as one reader wrote, is “Blyth” spelled correctly without an “e” at the end?) Yes.Blyth Arena2

 

“Didn’t the arena collapse after a snowstorm weighed down the roof?” Yes, in 1983 a major snowstorm struck and the snowload collapsed the arena. The backstory is that the Squaw Valley developers had wanted to raze the arena. Permission was repeatedly denied, I think by the State of California, who owned the Olympic assets in the valley. The arena had survived larger snow loads, plenty of them, but this one took it down and it was never rebuilt. End of story. Maybe.

“Did the sun really come out just before the opening ceremony?” Yes. The weather was foul, snowy, a blizzard. The doves that Walt Disney brought to be released stayed in their pens in the trailer. The band, an amalgamation of every high school in the area conducted by a music director from USC, couldn’t keep their instruments in tune against the cold air. But the spot came for the torch to be brought down the hill –  Little Papoose Peak, behind the jump hill. “Might as well…” the director said and the clouds parted, the sun broke through and Andrea Mead Lawrence carried the torch down the hill in full sunlight, no wind, and handed it off to Kenneth Henry of the UK, a speedskater who took it once around the oval  ice arena and lit the torch.

And the skies once again became cloudy…but the Olympics were underway, Richard Nixon did the prayer and Karl Malden recited the opening words.

Yes, the heavens parted…and we made some ‘firsts’ –  the first time a computer was used to tabulate scores – the first time a woman (skater Carol Heiss) took the Olympic oath for all athletes – it was the first year metal skis were permitted and Jean Vaurnet won Gold on them in Downhill, (yeah. then he went on to make sunglasses!) – we had the biggest Olympic jump hill (80 meters) – it was the first live broadcast of (segments of) a sporting event – dammit, I did a dynamite column about the Eighth Winter Games and now I can’t find it.

Another hot button for readers this weekend: Did a Russian die in the championship USA/USSR ice hockey game at Blyth Arena?

Many readers were there – in the first place, it wasn’t the championship Gold match, it was a semifinal. If they guy didn’t die, he’s still counting birdies from his shot into the wall by our goalie. The Cold War was in full swing, the US didn’t like Russia anyway and the feelings were mutual and it showed on the ice (I was working sound for NBC so had a pretty good vantage point). Their goalie had pulled some chickenshit stunts and thus paid the price. We won. And we won the Gold the next day over Czechoslovakia. It was an upset, I think that we won by a bunch of goals in the final minutes. We weren’t supposed to, but we had heart. I didn’t work that game, but heard it on our radio web.

The coolest part of the whole 1960 Olympics for many of us grunt workers was subtle: The Olympic officials, out of respect to the Czechs, cleared the scoreboard of our 9-4 win at Blyth Arena for the closing ceremony. But as soon as the flame dwindled and died and Richard Nixon called upon the Children of the World to gather four years hence in Innsbruck, Austria for the Ninth Winter Games, the stadium lights were dimmed. But all of us grunts’ eyes were on the arena scoreboard, which was then re-lit without fanfare to display “USSR – 2 USA – 3,” the score of the best match ever waged in Blyth. And we knew that a suggestion from the vanquished Russian coach helped us beat the Czechs.

And thousand of people saw the Limeliters, the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary and so many others in that venue but failed to see the Cold War symbol over their heads. which remained until Blyth Arena collapsed under mysterious circumstances on March 29, 1983.

 

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Let’s get a bit of Midtown parking dialogue going! Write your take on this in the “comments” below….

FearlessNoText

AN EMAIL ARRIVED LAST NIGHT INTO MY LONELY WRITER’S GARRET

 

Good Evening, Karl,

I was thinking about an old Virginia Street casino which I recall visiting with my father, the Horseshoe.  What I don’t remember and which is a curiosity to me now, is where did the customers park while visiting that place, and other similar clubs, on Virginia Street?   The same question would present itself now, I suppose, if one were to attempt to do something with those old properties along Virginia Street. 
Thanks for any comments,
[a friend]
I responded today:HaroldsPigeonhole

Hi [friend] – I peeked at my email last night about 11:30 pm and then laid awake all night thinking: Where DID we park downtown…?
Sewell’s Supermarket opened in 1949 with a big parking lot, the east half of the block between Fourth and Fifth, Sierra and Virginia – (well, almost half; the south quarter was committed to Standard Stations and a hardware store.) But it was almost unregulated parking and we used it in synch with Sewell’s customers for three decades – I heard that the clubs kicked in a buck or two to keep their lights on at night.

In addition to the clubs, there were four movie houses, all doing a pretty good business each night – the Crest, the Granada, the Tower and the Majestic. And the State Building, later the Pioneer. All generated a need for parking.

In my wakeful night, I enumerated in my mind all the parking spaces that we locals knew of, pretty much by twosies and foursies, some by a church, others behind a retail building down an alley or something like that. And there were quite a few of those.

As far as parking spaces dedicated to a specific club, pretty darn few. At some point the demographics of the downtown visitors enters the picture. Almost all downtown motels had sufficient lots for their clientele’s cars, and we developed a “sixth sense” of where we could park on their lots, by mid-week, by weather, by time of the year. Thus quite a few became available to the locals that knew the system. Some of the bigger motels, the Continental on South Virginia and the Pony Express on the Reno/Sparks line for two, had small shuttles that ran most of the reasonable hours all year. They moved a lot of people. 

The casinos started opening showrooms, and recognized a need for some sort of organized parking. Harrah’s finally built a garage, Harolds built the ill-fated pigeonhole garage but it lasted for many years. The Holiday Hotel opened in 1957 and wisely committed a huge amount of land to parking south of Mill Street, and didn’r really get too excited about policing it, and we parked there often. A serendipity moment for the Mapes Hotel was the 1953 explosion of the YMCA adjacent to it to the east, and this site was paved, never to be rebuilt upon, to the benefit of Charlie Mapes on the west and the Majestic Theater to the east. FNB opened its parking garage in 1964 and left it unrestricted in the evenings, and even the City of Reno relaxed its parking hours and enforcement – this is in a day when an entire block, both sides, was parking spaces, maybe one loading zone each side of a street, all the rest parking. The Post Office’s lot was there also, restricted but few cared!

This forms kind of a half-assed answer; the best characteristic I can venture is that if a merchant, be it a bank with multiple-stories of parking like FNB and Security on First Street, or a shoe store like Nevada Shoe Factory on Sierra with its two spaces or Montgomery Wards with about eight places on the alley, didn’t need their parking on an evening or a weekend, they left it unsupervised and available, and were never disappointed. Thus there were probably 300 places to park, plus the garages, if you knew where to look, and we did.

A final observation is that we were maybe healthier and less fearful of walking in downtown Reno, a longer distance, and might park as far south as California Avenue or as far north as the University, or west to the Gold ‘n Silver, to go downtown. Not in today’s Reno, thanks!

I hope this offers a beginning of a logical answer, but I’m not sure it will. I’m amused by the inability of the Midtown kids to figure out their parking problem. We used to go to the Sawdust Festival and Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, a tiny beach town where upwards of 100,000 people a month still visit in the summer months, brought to town by a well-organized effort using county school buses to and from pickup points. Their drivers might be costumed, a banjo band might be riding the bus with you, and you might find a cold beer or glass of Merlot under a sunshade it the parking lot when you returned. Sparks has figured that out for its special events; Reno, not so much.

I’ll probably dwell and stew on this some more, and  may bore you further in the future….

Thanks for writing…….Karl

Harolds Club pigeonhole parking garage photo scanned from early Harolds Club calendar

Baghdad-by-the-Bay

Baghdad1951The Arabian Nights – a 12th century fable and a 19th century state of mind.  Veiled maidens with rubies in their belly buttons darting furtively through arched portals, camels kushed outside darkened houses heavy with the odor of strong tobacco burning in a hookah and cuisine based on God-knows-what cooking in an earthen kettle; threatening-looking men with bold moustaches, loose garments and heavy scimitars at their sides, and nary a sound to be heard other than music with some unsettling tone and meter in the background.  A crescent moon – always a crescent, never full nor new – always overhead.  A disdain for westerners.  Safe haven for miscreants from all over the earth, akin to Butch and Sundance’s Hole in the Wall a thousand years later.  A foreboding night in a foreboding town.

            Baghdad.  Or, seen in many early western publications as Bagdad.

            It caught the world’s eye in the 1920s when it became capital of Iraq.  Boundaries of faraway nations meant little to us – it was all the land of Arabia to the music lyricists, fashion designers and Hollywood writers, all capitalizing on its mystique.  Few seasoned moviegoers can forget the sepia-toned scene, in Cinerama yet, when a tiny speck on the barren windswept desert appeared through a distant mirage, then inexorably, slowly, grew larger and closer to the viewer until the skirted horse and a turbaned Omar Sharif, his tattered burnoose streaming in the wind, dismounted to deliver news to (Capt. T. E.) Lawrence of Arabia.  Many regard it as director David Lean’s most memorable scene, ever.

            But why did San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner columnist Herb Caen nickname San Francisco, and later subtitle his column, Baghdad-by-the-Bay?  Baghdad and San Francisco are little alike; San Francisco built on seven hills, only forty square miles with water on three sides, but Baghdad basically level and spread out 20 times larger, its only waterfront the Tigris River; San Francisco, in a word, of breathtaking beauty while Baghdad, well, by Caen’s assessment, less so – the sparkling white minarets exist mostly in travel brochures.  Not an unattractive city, but no San Francisco.  Why was it called Baghdad-by-the-Bay by a scribe who set Bay Area trends for seven decades, until his death in February of 1997?

Right about now, in case you’re wondering what inspired this column: A reader asked me why, given my frequent references to Herb Caen, haven’t I jumped on Caen’s 50-year old reference to Baghdad.  And I point out that I welcome many former Bay Area residents to this column, who loved or hated Caen but definitely read him daily.  My simple excuse is that I figured that some other writer had already drawn attention to it, given the events of the world.  But learning of none, I’ll wrap up the explanation:

Caen drew his analogy based upon lifestyle, not the cities’ appearances or geography.  Caen’s San Francisco was a wild, wide-open city in 1951, a town with colonies of a dozen ethnic regions that lived by their own cultures unabated, a dozen tongues spoken each morning on the 30-Stockton bus line on the way downtown to work, not unlike a commute in Baghdad.  Fugitives from other climes who lived less than savory lives were left alone, so long as they didn’t cause any problems to either city’s other residents.   A large Bohemian presence thrived in both cities.  And both cities had an unsung tolerance, ranging to admiration, for their diversity and colorful characters, the colorful rising to high places in Baghdad, and respected, if not exalted, in San Francisco.  Remember, Caen coined the nickname in the 1950s; San Francisco perpetuated its no-holds-barred Barbary Coast district for a century after sailing ships gave up the ghost, and Count Marco endured as a local character well into the ‘70s.  (And note the fabled “Barbary Coast” itself is of Arabian flavor…)

            I hope I didn’t break any reader’s heart with this yarn – I was raised on Herb Caen’s stuff, and frankly do borrow, usually with attribution, some of his gimmicks like “Pocketful of notes,” “These things I like,” and “And then I wrote,” and until unraveling his rationale, thought Baghdad was a gleaming sister city to San Francisco, appearance-wise. Guess not.  But we still wish the Baghdaddies and Baghmommies all well, and if you read this last sentence Saturday morning, it’ll surprise me to no end.  [I was surprised – it ran!]

• • •

[Readers’ note: This was first published in 2003 during the early height of the Iraq war]
© Reno Gazette-Journal 2003

 

 

Heritage Bank brightens up Midtown Reno!

Heritage Bank

A day or two ago I wrote a piece about the old Union Federal Savings & Loan building on South Virginia Street, that was less-than-complimentary about its design. I pulled it at the last minute, inasmuch that it was in fact designed by an architect, I guess, who might still be with us and whose mother might read this blog.

The thrust of the story, the building’s style be damned, was a huge pat on the back of Heritage Bank, for going into that project full-bore and alleviating some of the design drawbacks of the building. So, we’ll just take the high road here, and pay compliments to Heritage Bank and its leader Stan Wilmoth,

The building went up, I’d guess about 1972, and I don’t know who the architect was. I do recall that there was a pretty good dust-up about its placement on the southwest corner of Park Lane, which had been built four or five years before. (You do remember, that there was a rather significant shopping center on the lot adjoining the Union Federal, now Heritage building northward to Plumb Lane?)

The rancher who sold some of the dirt under Park Lane to the developers, ceded to Park Lane a commitment to maintain the land occupied by Union Federal, now Heritage, as a view corridor from South Virginia Street to the new center being built. That was all well and good, but in a few years to follow the rancher said to hell with that, and sold the land to Union Fed, and all hell broke loose.

I don’t remember the eventual outcome; for as big as beef as it was then I can’t find anyone now who remembers who prevailed in this brouhaha. The fact that the building is there would suggest that Park Lane lost, but maybe some $$ exchanged hands in recompense. Couldn’t say.

Anyhoo, the building, which is most charitably described as interesting, is getting a makeover and some rockwork to break up the endless corners and angles in the front, if it is indeed the front, of the building. Thanks, Heritage Bank, for brightening up the southern edge of our little hamlet’s developing “Midtown” district.

Two points must follow: No, the building was not built of Legos, as some suggested 40 years ago, and yes, Heritage Bank, who deserves a great deal of credit for amassing and maintaining a “local heritage” library in their present quarters in the old FNB building on South Virginia, does indeed have a copy of my book, Which makes me feel very honored!

We’re forgetting a few guys…

OldYMCA

Work progresses in site work on Foster Drive across from Reno High School on what was once the home of the Reno YMCA. The new building will be the William N. Pennington facility for the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows.  This is a wonderful thing and has been appropriately ballyhooed wherever applicable, as it should be. Pennington did a fine thing endowing this building, and was generally a good guy (we were neighbors in the 1960s before our lives took separate courses.)

But it’s mildly annoying to some, in this case, to me, that with all the fol-de-rol over the new facility, little, as in zilch, has been said about how that little piece of dirt was transformed from a dairy farm adjoining Westfield Village, to a grand new building. A few steps have been left out of that site’s journey.

The journey started back in 1952 when the original Reno YMCA, pictured, blew up, actually a boiler in the basement blew up and took the building down to ground level in one quick hurry. I watched it. That YMCA, by the by, was the next building east of the Mapes Hotel and if you don’t know where that was you probably want to leave this site and go read the Mommy Files or the Sudoku page. Reno was without its Y.

So, a group of businessmen got together once, becoming weekly, if memory serves (I was 10 years old and don’t accurately recall; I have a faint recollection of them meeting at the Trocadero Room of the El Cortez but wouldn’t swear to it.) Some names I remember were Al Solari, Del Machabee, Buddy Traynor, Conrad Preiss, Jim Morrison, Gene Gastanaga, Ed Pine, Sr., and hell of a lot of others. Oh, and a young Realtor named Karl Breckenridge. (My dad, not me.) If anybody can think of some more, lemme know; there’s a plaque around somewhere with some names but I can’t find the plaque.

Those local men got on the bandwagon to beg, borrow, and steal, well almost, the funding to acquire a piece of property for a brand-new Y building. And my dad, being a real estate man, found the property, as I recall, with Del Machabee. And they all had fundraisers, barbecues at the California Building, virtual house-to-house solicitations, tail-twisting of the school districts (there were eight in Washoe County back then.) The city government, Stead Air Force Base, the power company, Nevada Bell employees, just an incredible, damn aggressive but all-in-fun fundraiser.

And they raised the funds, and bought the land, I think from the Vhay Ranch but don’t know at this writing. I traveled with my dad for 10 days in his 1952 Buick to a dozen YMCA buildings in northern and southern California, spent nights in them, swam in their pools, while he gathered ideas for the Reno building. And, the building was indeed built, Orville Wahrenbrock was hired to run it with Dick Taylor second in command, and Tom Hardester and Steve Rucker in the P.E. department. Reno had a Y.

What the hell happened to it I can’t say; some of the Ys in California that we toured preparatory to building it still stand (it was a well-built building.) My personal opinion, which I’ve learned is shared by many guys in Reno, is that something or somebody screwed up. It doesn’t matter – it’s been torn down. And we have no Y. And a new building is going up on its former site, a new building with a flagship name.

But, ya know what? There’s a long list of once-prominent people who did a great deal of work, and personal commitment, and personal expense, to get that site. But I don’t look to see their names being bandied about when the new youth club opens a year from now.

If they are, they’ll probably be right alongside Anna Frandsen Loomis’ name on the Lear Theater – my friend Anna who endowed the Christian Science Church in 1938, later the Lear, getting the same credit that Machabee, Solari, Pine, Breckenridge the Elder, and all the others will be getting on Foster Drive – none.

(Photo credit to “CardCow.com” on the web, it’s an old postcard that half of Reno has in their collections but I couldn’t find mine.)

Staying close to West Fifth and Keystone, we see…

Safewayp>While I was capturing the Cue & Cushion et al seen in the previous post on film, (actually on digital, but that lacks the certain je ne sais quoi of film that this site is built upon), I strayed a block to the east, to Vine Street, and took a picture of what in its day was a Safeway, not just a Safeway but the greatest most modern Safeway in Reno or Sparks (akin to the one on Mt. Rose and South Virginia Streets), which now is obviously sunk into the depths of Reno’s slums.

The new (1962) Safeway was the bee’s-knees in shopping, replacing the old favorite Santa Claus Market a block to its north on Vine Street, that little rock market that received its name because it never closed, even on the day when Santa Claus came to Reno.

The Safeway pictured was the pride of northwest Reno, as I said in an earlier post a part of town then developing rapidly. Times changed and the Safeway closed, to become a home improvement store for many years, later an auto parts store, and now a piece of crap taking up space in what should be, and was, a nice part of our city. No opinion here, just a wish that things could be different. It’s a good and viable corner, but alas, yet another reminder of the rapidity with which the premier locations become mere embarrassments

A dog’s life

MarinaDog

This is a re-do of the post that went with this photo of the supine canine on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. The animal shown, a large dog, is alive; we think. A beautiful animal indeed . ’nuff said

Another old University of Nevada friend bites the dust…

Getchell 2getchelllibrary copy
Well, they’re doing it again – tearing down a building that many of us watched being built during our University of Nevada matriculation and one that we visited thereafter, quite often. A couple of them were saved – and I’ll modestly take a bit of credit for calling the regents a bunch of damn ungrateful fools in a column, for coming thhhhiiis close to tearing down the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium, and taking the name “Jot Travis” off the student union center – a building built in 1958 in honor of Ezra “Jot” Travis, endowed by his son Wesley upon Wesley’s death in 1952. The Planetarium, named for the parents of university benefactor Max C. Fleischmann, was on the endangered list in favor of some dingbat building. It still stands. Moral being, don’t give your fortune to the University – they’ll spend it and in a period of time, demolish it for some younger guy’s endowment. And you and your wife’s name (and your contribution!) will soon go by the wayside.

Now, another building is going, going, soon to be gone – the Noble H. Getchell Library opened in 1962, two years after Noble Getchell’s death, to replace the Clark Library, a building still in use today as the Clark Administration Building. In days past, honored names, like William Clark’s, also a miner, were more revered than they are today. We, as undergraduates and “we” being every able-bodied soul attending the U, hauled the Clark’s inventory of library books, box-by-box, from the Clark up the (then) main drive for re-shelving in the new Getchell Library. The Getchell was a beautiful, modern building, bright, airy and welcoming (still is). Noble Getchell was a miner, and beat the drum for all the Nevada miners to support the University which then had a Mackay School of Mines, not “earth-sciences,” whatever those are – euphemisms abound on the Hill – the “Hill” itself a bygone term of endearment for the U. Getchell, like John Mackay before him, contributed mightily to our school. (In fairness, the mining industry went flat about the time the Nevada miners would have started to fund the library and Getchell and the others couldn’t endow it as he’d hoped to. But, he tried, and name “Getchell” will soon depart from the memory of the University of Nevada.)

You may bid the Getchell Library goodbye – apparently it couldn’t be converted to another use in this cash-rich Nevada university system (the tale is that it’s built with student funds. Students, as we know, have a lot of spare cash lying around to build buildings with.) I wonder if this occurs at other universities – the destruction, whether they pull it off or not, as in the case of the Jot and the Planetarium – look-out the Campanile at UC Berkeley, surely taking up a lot of room that could better be used for parking, or the Hoover Library at Stanford, or that damn ol’ Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, right in the middle of what could be a solar array for campus power, or Crisler Arena at Michigan – definitely showing its age. The Tables Down at Morey’s, and the Place where Louie Dwells back east in the Ivy League.

The Getchell served us well for half a century. Thanks, Noble…